Different

15 02 2015

Thailand is “unique.” Thailand is “different.” Thailand can’t be compared with anywhere else. These claims are often made for Thailand, often by those who know very little about anywhere else. They are often made about many countries, including Russia, North Korea, Scotland and many more, often described in marketing terms as “unique” or “different.”

Difference can be expressed in various ways. For Thailand, the military dictatorship has emphasized its “difference,” sometimes even claiming that it isn’t a dictatorship!

When the EU Delegation to Thailand recently issued a statement it said three simple and very clear things:

The EU Delegation is concerned about detention without judicial overview and recalls that Thailand, as a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), has a duty to bring suspects promptly before a judge.

The EU Delegation is equally concerned about the continued use of military courts to try civilians and calls on the government to restrict the use of such courts to military offences committed by military personnel.

As a friend and partner of Thailand, the EU has repeatedly called for the democratic process to be restored and for martial law to be lifted. Rule of Law and the protection and promotion of Human Rights are crucial elements for stability and progress.

The response from the military dictatorship was equally clear. It rejected the statement. That is certainly not “different,” at least not historically. Military dictatorships in Thailand and elsewhere have usually rejected calls for democracy, rule of law and human rights.

Speaking on behalf of General Udomdej Sitabutr, the junta’s secretary general and army chief, he justified military dictatorship and its components including martial law, military  courts, detention without judicial overview and the trashing of international obligations. Winthai said the junta “is well aware of this [EU] concern…” and states that the EU simply doesn’t understand the junta’s Thailand, saying the EU should “think about the current situation in Thailand that is different from those of other countries.”

Yet junta spokesman Colonel Winthai Suwaree says Thailand is different in this, without saying how it is different. PPT can assist him. Soldiers

The military dictatorship’s Thailand is indeed different. As best we can tell, and we are relying on Wikipedia, Thailand is the world’s only currently operating military dictatorship. Even if this is wrong and there are a few more, Thailand is operating under very different rules from most other countries of the world.

Because Thailand is afflicted by this unusual political pathology (a military dictatorship), Winthai observes that this means “the context of problem solving here may be different from ones used elsewhere…”. Again, he’s correct. As one of the world’s almost extinct political dictatorships, Thailand’s military bosses expect obedience, passivity and subservience to the military state’s power.

That context justifies martial law, military  courts, detention without judicial overview and the trashing of international obligations. Indeed, Winthai explained this using militarily idiosyncratic “logic”: “[m]artial law is being invoked only to prohibit political gatherings and to enhance the efficiency of law enforcement authorities…”.

The dopes at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were their usual diplomatic worst, saying “the ministry was aware of the EU’s latest stance and saw nothing new in it.”

So Thailand is different. It is politically different for all the wrong reasons. But that is exactly how the military, the palace and the royalist elite want it. After all, they benefit most from this politically idiosyncratic regime.





19 and still counting

3 02 2015

The lese majeste/palace house-cleaning continues. It is getting very difficult to keep up with the huge number of lese majeste reports and charges.

The most recent case is reported at Prachatai and the Bangkok Post which both report that police have arrested another relative of former police senior officer Pongpat Chayapan. Pongpat has already been sentenced on lese majeste charges.

Police arrested Ekkachai Ployhin on Tuesday. They accused him of claiming “connections with the monarchy in helping a suspect in illicit drug case out of jail.”

It is alleged that in December 2008, Ekkachai claimed to be the nephew of Pol Lt Gen Pongpat and to have links to the monarchy – they mean the crown prince – and demanded 1.3 million baht to solve a drug case.

Prachatai states that following Pongpat’s arrest, “nearly 30 more suspects were arrested for associating with the monarchy-citing network of him, at least 19 of whom have now been charged with lèse majesté.”





Somyos convicted two years ago

29 01 2015

PPT reproduces an Asian Human Rights Commission Statement on the inhumane treatment of Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, a lese majeste prisoner. Convicted two years ago, he has been in jail since 30 April 2011. The palace and several regimes have punished Somyos for his decision to fight the charges and mount domestic and international campaigns.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

AHRC-STM-025-2015somyos
January 29, 2015

THAILAND: Two-year anniversary of conviction of Somyot Prueksakasemsuk amidst ongoing constriction of freedom of expression

On 23 January 2013 the Criminal Court in Bangkok convicted Somyot Prueksakasemsuk of two violations of Article 112 of the Criminal Code. Somyot Prueksakasemsuk is a long-time labour rights activist and human rights defender. The Court found Somyot guilty on both charges, and he was sentenced to ten years in prison in this case, as well as to one year in prison in relation to a prior case.

Over two years have passed since Somyot’s conviction. He has been behind bars for a total of 1370 days since his arrest on 30 April 2011. This is 1370 days too long. Somyot was held for six months of pre-trial detention, and after beginning in 12 November 2011, the hearings in his trial continued until 3 May 2012, and the decision was read on 23 January 2013. The Appeal Court upheld the original decision on 19 September 2014. At present, Somyot is further appealing his verdict to the Supreme Court. Since he was first arrested and placed behind bars, like the majority of detainees under Article 112, Somyot has been consistently denied bail, despite 16 bail applications being submitted. The Asian Human Rights Commission calls for the immediate release of Somyot Prueksakasemsuk and all others imprisoned for exercising their freedom of expression.

Article 112 of the Criminal Code stipulates that, “Whoever, defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.” Although this measure has been part of the Criminal Code since its last revision in 1957, there has been an exponential increase in the number of complaints filed since the 19 September 2006 coup; this increase has been further multiplied following the 22 May 2014 coup.

Somyot Prueksakasemsuk is a long-time labour rights activist and human rights defender in Thailand. From 2007 until his arrest, he was the editor of Voice of Taksin magazine. In Somyot’s case, the Article 112 charges stemmed from allegedly allowing two articles with anti-monarchy content to be published in Voice of Taksin magazine. The prosecution argued that his work in printing, distributing and disseminating two issues of the magazine which contained content deemed to violate Article 112 was itself an equal violation of the law. As in other lese majeste cases, the Court’s decision turned on the issue of intention. In the abbreviated decision released on 23 January 2013, the Court offered this interpretation of Somyot’s guilt: “The two Khom Khwam Kit articles in Voice of Taksin did not refer to the names of individuals in the content. But were written with an intention to link incidents in the past. When these incidents in the past are linked, it is possible to identify that (the unnamed individual) refers to King Bhumipol Adulyadej. The content of the articles is insulting, defamatory, and threatening to the king. Publishing, distributing, and disseminating the articles is therefore with the intention to insult, defame, and threaten the king.” The implication of the Criminal Court’s argument here is that anyone involved in the editing, publishing, disseminating, or distribution of material that is judged to have the intention to defame, insult, or threaten the monarchy, is criminally liable.

At the time of the initial decision, the Asian Human Rights Commission warned that it was an ominous warning to anyone involved in publishing, distributing or selling print or other media (AHRC-STM-027-2013). What made the conviction particularly important was that it demonstrated how the enforcement and interpretation of Article 112 was both uneven and highly political. Writers and publishers would not know that they have crossed the invisible line demarcated by the law until the police knock on their doors to take them away. The decision heralded the creation of an atmosphere of fear and a new set of limitations on the free expression and circulation of ideas, particularly those deemed to be critical or dissident. Two years after the decision, and eight months after the 22 May 2014 coup by the National Council for Peace and Order, this atmosphere of fear has been consolidated.

The Asian Human Rights Commission calls for the immediate release of Somyot Prueksakasemsuk and all other individuals facing charges or convicted of violating Article 112 and related laws. Until this happens, the AHRC will continue to closely follow all other cases of alleged violations of Article 112 and encourages all others concerned with human rights and justice in Thailand to do so as well.





Updated: When transfers are acceptable

12 01 2015

Back in May 2014, then Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was dismissed by a verdict of the Constitutional Court. Her “crime” was to transfer one official, or as the New York Times stated it, “having impure motives when she transferred a bureaucrat three years ago.” Reasonable commentators referred to this verdict as biased, politicized and ridiculous.

Yet if the Constitutional Court declared her single act improper then, what should it say now about what the Bangkok Post says: is a set of transfers impacting “73 positions at the Metropolitan Police Bureau … and 130 positions at the Central Investigation Bureau…”? We ask because that Post says these transfers “involve many officers from the old power clique of the Yingluck administration.”

We know that the Constitutional Court will say nothing. Because this court is politically biased towards anti-democrats and royalists, it is more likely to cheer the police transfers.

Double standards define Thailand’s judiciary and there is no justice.

The new officers brought in are mostly close to General Prawit Wongsuwan and worked for the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime.

Part of the changes taking place also owe something to palace house-cleaning.

Update: Interestingly, the Bangkok Post reports that the puppet Constitutional Drafting Committee is to give the Constitutional Court the power that the royalists have long begged the king to provide under Article 7 of the last couple of constitutions. Rather than have the monarchy step in – and the royalists won’t trust it when the old man is dead – the Constitutional Court will step in to “solve” political crises. This seems to have been the king’s desire since 2006, and the royalist puppets are keen on engineering it.





Lese majeste at Al Jazeera

10 01 2015

We know we are late posting this link and that many readers will have already seen it.

The Stream is sometimes a bit difficult to keep up with when it interviews people on dodgy Skype connections and trying to link with reader tweets while presenting complex situations to a very general audience.

In the case of lese majeste in Thailand (not Qatar), the show interviewed lese majeste expert David Streckfuss, Saksith Saiyasombut of Siam Voices, ultra-royalist Tul Sitthisomwong and a “Thai citizen who supports lese majeste law,” Kuson Sintusingha.Kuson

PPT doesn’t believe we had never heard of Kuson previously, and compared with the other three, is the most interesting of the commentators simply because so many of his comments are indicative of a madness that affects so many of the anti-democrats. He’s a fully-enrolled member of this lot, as can be seen in his Facebook profile (right) which The Nation allowed him to use when providing “comments” on stories there.

The comments at that story at The Nation are indicative of his commentary on lese majeste. His claim is that lese majeste is most appropriately used against red shirts who are spreading lies about the king, probably at the behest of the hated Thaksin Shinawatra. His politics is clearly narrow and fascist, but he is not alone in these views in Thailand. The palace and military dictatorship know that monarchy fanatics are important political allies for they are easily mobilized and made aggressive and nasty vigilantes.

 





Rancid royalist politics

8 01 2015

In the recent past, when the elite has discussed its various constitutions, the sections dealing with the monarchy have been considered “controversial” in the sense that the notion of a constitutional monarchy is poorly developed in Thailand and the current reign has seen a determined effort to limit the constitutional constraints on the monarchy. If PPT’s collective memory is correct, the discussions of the sections dealing with the monarchy in the deliberation of the 1997 constitution were held in-camera.

When the military junta seized power in May 2014, it scrapped almost all of the 2007 constitution, with the significant exception of the sections on the monarchy.

As the military dictatorship considers its new constitution, the puppet Constitution Drafting Committee has so far said little about the monarchy. It has considered proposals about a number of changes to the political system, although the outcomes of these are anything but clear.

Yet, if a report at Khaosod is a good indication, rabid royalists are determined to have an even more powerful monarch, less constrained by the new constitution.

Retired commander of the Thai armed forces General Saiyud Kerdphol, long a buddy to the great political meddler and Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda, “has urged drafters of the new constitution to allow … the King to intervene directly in politics…“.

The king has long intervened, and to give them their due, Khaosod points this out.

So this call is not for the standard intervention of the palace-monarchy conservative coalition, but for something more significant.

Saiyud wants the new constitution to define the “channels for the King to intervene” on the basis that he should “solve any political crisis in the country…”.

In fact, most political crises in the country, at least in the past few decades have been as a result of actions by the military, palace and royalists. Sure, there have been others, such as the red shirt risings of 2009 and 2010, but these have been responses to the interventions of these other groups of perennial meddlers. After all, it is the military, always with palace support or acquiescence, that conducted illegal coups in 1991, 2006 and 2014.

In the pickled world of old farts, political zombies, military jackasses and lumbering dinosaurs that Saiyud inhabits, his claim that he wants the king to be politically interventionist “in order to prevent further coups in Thailand” would make sense. However, no moderately sane person possessed of a few brain cells could possibly by this nonsense.old-farts-and-jackasses

According to this mad monarchist,

… the King should have the constitutional authority to exercise power “through the military, or the Statesman that he has appointed.” In Thailand, the honorary title of “Statesman” is currently held by Gen. Prem Tinsulanonda, the former unelected Prime Minister who is now serving as a top adviser to King Bhumibol.

There’s his elder military brother popping up in a role that Saiyud has promoted for Prem previously.

In Saiyud’s world, this “will help prevent more military coups in Thailand by allowing [the king] to solve political crises as soon they arise, thereby freeing the Thai military from ‘needing’ to intervene.”

The nonsense is that coups result when the palace wants to sort out its political problems and resolve its political fears. This would amount to a return to an absolute monarchy in all but name and would require that the king have control over all aspects of the coercive elements of the state.

Saiyud seems to not understand that monarchies went the way of the dodo because blood is not a trustworthy mechanism for choosing a political leader.





Coup and monarchy

1 01 2015

America’s NBC News chose the coup and its aftermath as one of the “stories, newsmakers, videos and images that defined 2014.” The story at NBC has several video reports attached to it. We summarize the story and add our own observations.

The story begins:

Seven months after seizing power, Thailand’s military rulers appear to be in no hurry to hand over political control. There is talk that elections won’t take place before 2016…. As they settle in for the long haul, Thailand’s gaffe-prone generals have been focused on their mission to “return happiness to the people.”

The generals, and especially The Dictator, seem happy, and so does perennial political meddler General Prem Tinsulanonda, who has cheered the coup from his palace position as head of the Privy Council. Even if the economy is in anti-democrat/coup-induced decline, the royalist Sino-Thai tycoons seem happy enough that the social order has been righted and steadied.

PrinceThe story continues to the events of the past six weeks or so that have demonstrated something else – that Prem and his lot have managed to make Thailand’s succession a “problem” in the sense that what should have been a simple death of a king and his son taking over has become a major political event. The story notes that the “marital (and extra-marital) adventures of the Crown Prince might well have been dismissed as nothing new if not for one thing: timing. Maneuvering for Thailand’s royal succession has been one of the key factors driving a decade of political conflict in the southeast Asian nation — and now it appears that succession may be imminent.”

Normal constitutional monarchies do not have to deal with such meddling and stupidity because normal constitutional monarchies generally operate within defined legal boundaries. Not in Thailand, so the story observes:

… as the year draws to a close, it is palace intrigue and not Thailand’s increasingly eccentric generals who are the talk of Bangkok — albeit in hushed or oblique tones because of draconian laws that limit open discussion of the monarchy…. Among a number of senior police officers arrested in late November for alleged corruption and defaming the monarchy were the uncle and three brothers of Princess Srirasmi…. Srirasmi — who was in line to be Queen of Thailand — was stripped of her royal title and promptly divorced by her husband, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn.

The prince, with the son he took from the union with Srirasmi

The prince, with the son he took from the union with Srirasmi

Noting the successionist line, the report says that the prince’s mistresses have been one source of his unpopularity. The report goes on to talk of Sirindhorn as “popular” and alludes to her sexuality as well: “The prince’s younger sister — Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn — has emerged a far more popular figure among Palace elites, the army and in the country at large. Most Thais would prefer to see her take over from her father.” The report adds that:

That leaves the palace in a pickle — though none of this can be openly discussed in Thailand due to the kingdom’s draconian “lese majeste” law, which bans defamation, insults and threats to the monarchy, with penalties of up to 15 years in jail.

Meanwhile, for the prince, it seems that nothing much has changed.

He’s sent out pictures of himself with Prince Dipangkorn, the son he produced with Srirasmi, and reportedly took off to Germany following the split with her. Life seems to have gotten back to normal, despite another wife tossed out and a couple of dozen of her relatives and hangers-on jailed.

What the story doesn’t say is that there appears to have been a very large criminal network operating around the prince and, in the way of the corrupt Thai police and military, it was probably delivering payments right to the top. Of course, the current palace has managed to avoid allegations of corruption, deftly fending them off or allocating them to “evil” politicians or other sundry nasties, but never taking responsibility. Again, the lese majeste law has helped a lot, preventing any discussion of, for example, palace land grabs.Nothing happened

Sounding a bit like PPT, the story says: “Speculation is rife that Vajiralongkorn’s move to strip his now ex-wife (and her family) of their royal titles was an attempt to clean up shop — and perhaps part of a wider deal with the military to clear the path to the crown.”

Getting back to the coup, the story says:

One widely-assumed and unspoken reason behind the coup is believed to be the military’s desire to oversee a royal succession, and Vajiralongkorn’s rapprochement could be just what the army needs.

We think this is probably the deal to watch. As the NBC story says, “If a deal is done on their watch for the Crown Prince to take the thrown — on their terms — then the generals might feel vindicated.”

That’s true, but it also needs to be recalled that the generals are doing more than “managing” succession. They are re-establishing a political system that protects and nurtures the corrupt military-palace alliance.








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